Album Review: Childish Gambino - 'Camp'

US comedian Donald Glover has seriously good rhymes

Album Review: Childish Gambino - 'Camp'

Album Info

  • Release Date: November 15, 2011
  • Producer: Donald Glover, Ludwig Göransson
  • Label: Glassnote
  • Fact: He nearly got cast as the new Spider Man
Donald Glover – aka [a]Childish Gambino[/a] –is well aware that he conforms to no-one’s idea of hip-hop ‘realness’. But then, as he points out, “[i]All the real niggas I know are either crazy or dead[/i]”, so it’s hardly his loss. Raised a Jehovah’s Witness in a small Georgia suburb, Glover graduated from NYU and wound up working in television, landing a writing gig on [i]30 Rock[/i] and an acting one on [i]Community[/i]. Last year, The Internet got this close to having him cast as the new [i]Spider-Man[/i], and next year he’ll be seen in the new [i]Muppets[/i] movie. Hardly the stuff great hip-hop is made of, right?

Um, wrong. For starters, Glover is no dilettante: ‘[b]Camp[/b]’ is his fourth full-lengther under his nom de rap (taken from a [a]Wu-Tang Clan[/a] name generator), and the best to date. For another thing, while he’s a gifted comedian, his focus is never really on being funny – just witty, heartfelt, honest and occasionally uproarious.

He’s been variously tagged as backpack and nerdcore, and you can kind of understand why: on ‘[b]LES[/b]’, Glover skewers his own hipsterhood by describing a bathroom clinch with a girl who’s “[i]Got ironic tattoos on her back/That ain’t ironic bitch, I love Rugrats[/i]”, before decreeing on ‘[b]Hold You Down[/b]’ that “[i]you’re not not-racist ’cos The Wire’s in your Netflix queue[/i]”. Pop-cultural references like that abound – his indie namechecks range from [a]Mumford & Sons[/a] to [a]Radiohead[/a] to [a]Sufjan Stevens[/a] – but there’s also an emotional heart to songs like ‘[b]Outside[/b]’ and the epic, seven-minute (and largely spoken-word) ‘[b]That Power[/b]’ that can’t be expressed in air-quotes.

“[i]Why does every black actor gotta rap some?[/i]” Glover wonders on ‘[b]Bonfire[/b]’, before concluding, “[i]I don’t know, all I know is I’m the best one[/i]”. And that’s true, even if it’s not much of a claim. I’m about to make a bigger one on his behalf, though: fuck Tyler’s empty posturing, this is the hip-hop album of the year.

[i]Barry Nicolson[/i]

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